In this lesson, students will study a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Hernandez v. Texas, which played an important role in the Mexican American civil rights movement. First, they will watch a video segment that shows how Mexican Americans in Texas endured segregation and other forms of discrimination in the early 20th century. The class will then review key points of the Hernandez v. Texas case and write a legal brief that argues the side of Hernandez.
The video clip in this lesson is from the film, A Class Apart, a documentary directed by Carlos Sandoval and Peter Miller. A Class Apart portrays the challenges and discrimination faced by Mexican Americans in Texas in the first half of the 20th century, and shows how a group of activist lawyers challenged the social order by taking Hernandez v. Texas all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously determined that equal protection of the laws guaranteed in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to all citizens, and that the systematic exclusion of Mexican Americans from jury service in Texas is unconstitutional. This important legal precedent then allowed Mexican Americans to challenge issues like employment and housing discrimination, barriers to their right to vote and run for office, and segregated schools.